Over the last few months, Bill Belichick has gone from genius to cheater in the eyes of many fans. A group of fans and a former player filed a lawsuit claiming their cheating defrauded the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. While most dismiss the lawsuit as frivolous, it could have consequences if it gets to court, including the potential for Vikings fans to sue if a stadium deal can't be worked out.
There are some stories you just can’t make up and, depending on the outcome, this is a story that Zygi Wilf might want to pay attention to.
In 2007, a group of Jets fans filed a lawsuit against the New England Patriots, claiming that because of the Spygate cheating scandal, the Pats were in essence part of a confidence game to rip off the Jets and their fans. That case is still pending. But, thanks to revelations from Super Bowl week this year that the Patriots may have taped the Rams in their final walk-through before Super Bowl XXXVI, a new lawsuit has been filed – this time with a player from the Rams joining in.
Hugh Campbell, a lawyer from Cincinnati who filed the lawsuit, claims that the Rams players missed out on more than just getting a championship ring, saying in the court documents, “more importantly, their careers would have been advanced if they were winners instead of losers.”
Considering that the Rams already had won Super Bowl XXXIV, tagging them as losers may not be appropriate, but prior to the Patriots going on their run of four Super Bowl titles, the Rams had a chance to be a mini-dynasty of their own by winning two Super Bowls in three years. Instead, the Rams lost 20-17 and haven’t returned to the Super Bowl since.
Unlike the first lawsuit, which was put together solely by a group of fans, this lawsuit includes former Rams defensive back Willie Gary, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2001 and cut in September 2002 (the season after the Super Bowl loss by the Rams). He spent one season playing in NFL Europe and then played briefly in the Arena League.
With allegations swirling that former Patriots video coordinator Matt Walsh may have the smoking gun in the Spygate case, it is alleged that Walsh was the person who taped the walk-through by the Rams. Walsh is also the subject of questions coming from Washington D.C., in particular from Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit itself accuses the Patriots of “fraud,” “unfair trade practices” and “engaging in a pattern of racketeering” – all serious charges that, if believed by a judge or jury, could set sporting precedent.
In addition, the attorneys for the plaintiffs are asking a judge to certify the case as a class action lawsuit on behalf of anyone who purchased a Super Bowl ticket, attended the game, all Rams employees during the 2002 season and all owners of a Rams seat license for the 2001-02 season.
While many are dismissing the case as just another frivolous lawsuit as part of our increasingly litigious society, some law scholars think that the case might have an outside chance of actually succeeding. If that were the happen, it could open up a new can of worms in the form of fans suing professional sports franchises for anything from concealing injuries to just playing poorly.
One person who might be following this more closely than others is Wilf. He made a promise to Vikings fans that he would never relocate the team. That promise seemed like a good public relations move because it was assumed that somehow, some way, a stadium deal would get completed. As of now, there has been no such luck and, with the 2008 Minnesota State Legislature in session, there is no stadium talk whatsoever. That, combined with a commission set up by the NFL to come to Minnesota to explore the stadium climate – a report that sounded bleak at best – the door may be opening for the Vikings to relocate if the state takes no action in the near future.
If that were to happen, could Vikings fans band together and go after Wilf with a breach of promise lawsuit? It sounds crazy, but if this lawsuit gets any credence whatsoever, don’t be surprised if Vikings fans would join in the lawsuit frenzy in the event a stadium deal here never gets done. While hopefully it will never come to that, stranger things have happened.